Born in Rahway in his grandfather's house when the 7th Congressional district included that tough prison town, Matt Holt remembers U.S. Sen. Clifford Case as a public servant who put the common good ahead of partisan politics.
Case's career included four terms in the House representing the 7th district and four terms in the Senate, and now 25 years after his death, grandson Holt is considering a run for Congress.
"The single biggest challenge is to return to the art of negotiation," says Holt, 49, a Hunterdon County freeholder from Clinton, who served as the town's mayor for two years.
"It's difficult to get out of a primary with that message," he concedes, in a nod to Case's primary season loss in 1978 to hardliner Jeffery Bell. "But one of the things my grandfather did terribly well was he knew that you have to put partisanship aside and get to work. People are not hard to the right or hard to the left. It is that area down the middle where a great deal can be accomplished."
Following U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson's announcement yesterday that he would not pursue a fifth term, Case says he sat down with his wife and they talked over the possibility of his running for the seat.
Holt says he had originally thought he might run for the U.S. Senate.
"But Mike's announcement opens up tremendous opportunity," says Holt, a former business owner. "I told him we are sorry to see him go. We are certainly not ready to make it official, but at this point I would say I'm leaning toward running."
Holt says he plans to reach an official determination within the next few days.